November 19, 2014

REMEMBER THE LADIES | They Called Her “It”

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They called her “it.” They threw her to the ground, pinned her and punched her. They spread her legs, or “its” legs, open, and then seven of them took turns raping her repeatedly. They could justify this heinous crime because to them, she was not a person, she was an object. To them, leaving her bruised and bloodied on the ground was of no more consequence than the trail of red solo cups and beer cans left along the floor: Just something to be cleaned up and disposed of at party’s end.

This story seems like it was written simply to draw a reaction, a story for a horror movie more disturbing than the rest in its genre. But it is reality. It is the story of third year University of Virginia student, Jackie, and it mirrors the experience of countless other women, both at UVA and across the nation.

Rape does not happen because of what the victim was wearing or doing, it happens because someone, or a gang of someones, decides to rape. Rape is a means of degrading another, of saying to them, “You are not an equal person deserving of humanity or respect.” Rape is not a mistake.

In isolation, it would seem that each rape case is a single violent crime. Yet as more brave survivors come forward with their experiences, it is impossible to ignore the fact that rape is a cultural norm imposed to dominate women and enforce their inferiority. Such inequality is seen plainly in Jackie’s story: When people started recognizing Jackie and other victims from their presentations on bystander intervention and survivor support, they called them “feminazis.”

The survivors’ desire for justice and their work to prevent more people from becoming victims was seen as a threat to the patriarchy and for that they were once again harassed. Their desire for justice and their work to prevent more people from becoming victims was seen as a threat to the fraternity and school’s reputation and for that they were silenced.

For too long the truth was kept hidden because those who knew put their loyalty to the fraternity over the victims’ well-being. As a member of the Greek community, I understand the importance of being loyal to my sisterhood and my letters, but loyalty is not an excuse to cover up inhumanity. When we become Greek, we pledge ourselves to the values of honor, truth and responsibility. How ironic is it that in pleading loyalty to their fraternity, they completely negated the values for which their letters stand.

As Greeks, we are given a platform to serve as community leaders and to make our voices heard. To fail to use this privilege as a means of promoting a better society, we commit a grave injustice against our letters and our peers.

Jennifer Mandelblatt is a sophomore in the School of International and Labor Relations. She may be reached at [email protected]. Remember the Ladies appears alternate Thursdays this semester.